One man has capacity to inspire peace against all anti-peace forces, no matter how long and bitter the war has been fought. This is what we have learned from Abiy Ahmed (41), the new Prime Minister of Ethiopia in his quest to end his country’s 20 years war with neighboring Eritrea.
Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 after many years of struggle and internal rift which started in 1974. Five years later, both countries fought over disputed territory along their border.
In that unfortunate battle, which signifies the beginning of a long term conflict between the two countries, more than 80,000 people were reportedly killed.
Several attempts by the international community to resolve the dispute didn’t yield any result, including a UN backed boundary commission in 2002, which resolved that Ethiopia should cede the town of Badme to Eritrea. Ethiopia refused to honor the resolution and the two countries have remained in a state of “no war, no peace”.
According to analyst Abraham T. Zere, President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki had for 2 decades demonized Ethiopia, seeing it as an existential threat.
He used the supposed Ethiopian menace as a pretext to establish one of the world’s most repressive regimes, banning widespread freedoms, and impose indefinite military conscription. Some of the only bits of music to get official approval were toxic war songs that reinforced this all-encompassing enmity on which the nation’s identity was based.
However, all these have suddenly changed, since the arrival of one man, the new Ethiopia Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed. Abiy Ahmed (41), who took office in April 2018 as Africa’s youngest ruler is currently leading the world with love.
Since taking over Ethiopia as Prime Minister, he has been preaching for forgiveness and mercy, even when he was attacked with grenade by hostile enemies and narrowly escapes death.
In June 2018 for example, reports have it that, ‘’after he gave a speech to a large and adoring crowd in Ethopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, someone shut a grenade toward him, killing two people and injuring more than a hundred. However, rather than respond with condemnation as often done by most leaders across the world, Abiy Ahmed simply responded with a love message that says, “Love always wins. Forgiveness will win. Killing others is a defeat.”
Immediately after taking office in April, Abiy apologized for the killing of dissidents under previous leaders. “I ask forgiveness from the bottom of my heart for the many advocates of freedom and justice…” he said.
He also admitted the government is tainted by corruption, pledging a nonviolent crackdown on corruption and to uphold rule of law. In demonstrating this, he quickly lifted the climate of fear by releasing thousands of political prisoners and ending government blockage of opposition media. He went on to dine with political opponents, who had just been released from prison and he moved quickly to implement reforms, such as shaking up the much-feared security services and ending a state of emergency’’
Dr. Ahmed turned to his people with words of admonition, advising them to cast away the spirit of hatred and revenge in order to end ethnic fears and resentments. To put action to words, he made a generous peace offer with neighboring Eritrea over a land dispute that led to a disastrous war two decades ago and he promised to hand over the disputed territory to their former country people, now neighbor.
As a result of Abiy’s peace move, Ethiopia and Eritrea ended a two-decade conflict with a deal that their two leaders say was based on forgiving each other for past offensess’’. A key motive, they indicated, was to offer mercy to the other side after years of conflict over a border dispute, driven in part by ethnic tensions.
According to Dr. Abiy, “Forgiveness frees the consciousness,” adding that, “When we say we have reconciled, we mean we have chosen a path of forgiveness and love.” and, he added that, “Love is greater than modern weapons like tanks and missiles. Love can win hearts, and we have seen a great deal of it he said.
In barely the blink of an eye, Eritrea’s unpredictable president has completely reversed his rhetoric of the past two decade, says Abraham T. Zere, a journalist and executive director of PEN Eritrea. Zere added that, full-throated enmity seems to have turned into whole-hearted love between both countries and their respective leaders.
Eritrea President, who has over the past two decades acquired a reputation for being the number one enemy of anything Ethiopia appeared out of character, praising the leader of his long-time foe excessively, and proclaiming that the two nation’s populations are “one people”.
He then remarkably told Abiy, “you are our leader” and happily announced to the crowd: “I’ve given him all responsibility of leadership and power”.
Let’s get this very clearly. Did Eritrea President said he has given Ethiopia Prime Minister all responsibility of leadership and power? Exactly, that’s what he said, but we do not know what might follow after such a bold open declaration.
From Abiy Ahmed, we have learned that the peaceful action of a sincere peacemaker can melt the strongest heart of a brutal tyrant. This is so because; even the war makers want peace.
They only went for war because they see it as the way to preserve their interest. However, if a sincere peacemaker offers sincere alternative out of war, even the cruelest murder may turn holy.
Analyst maintained that, it was not long ago that it was almost unthinkable that Eritrea President, Isaias – a man who played a leading role in Eritrea’s battle for independence and based his leadership on the need to protect Eritrea against Ethiopia – might one day shake hands with his counterpart in Ethiopia. But now, some Eritreans are afraid that the president might even be about to declare Eritrea reunited with Ethiopia. This is what one man can do for peace.
Many Ethiopians expressed their exhilaration on social media. “The events of these past … days between Ethiopia and Eritrea are like the fall of the Berlin Wall. Only amplified 1,000 times,” Samson Haileyesus wrote on Facebook. The reaction in Eritrea has been equally ecstatic.
Analysts have stated that, Abiy’s emphasis on love as a national unifier may stem from his pedigree as peace professionals. He has a PhD in peace studies and “social capital.” His father is a Muslim from the largest ethnic group, the Oromo, while his mother is Christian from the second-largest group, Amhara.
The Ethiopia’s Prime Minister says a country with so many differences could bring a blessing, if people listen to each other based on principles.” He proposed a commission to look for new ways to blend the country’s ethnicities into a larger political narrative.
Abiy has electrified Ethiopia with his informal style, charisma and energy, earning comparisons with Nelson Mandela, Justin Trudeau, Barack Obama and Mikhail Gorbachev.
He has reshuffled his cabinet, fired a series of controversial and hitherto untouchable civil servants, including the head of Ethiopia’s prison service, lifted bans on websites and other media, freed thousands of political prisoners, ordered the partial privatisation of massive state-owned companies, ended a state of emergency imposed to quell widespread unrest and removed three opposition groups from a list of “terrorist” organisations. The lesson from Africa’s youngest ruler is very clear and simple, ”love and forgiveness wins”.
For the first time in 20 years, both countries opened embassies in their respective countries and Eritrea airline flew into Ethiopia amidst wide jubilation. Roses and champagne were given to passengers on the first commercial flight between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Ethiopian Airlines said its “bird of peace” flew to Eritrea, after the end of the “state of war” and Passengers sang and danced in the aisles during the 60-minute flight. But they wept once they landed in Eritrea’s capital Asmara, as they met relatives and friends for the first time since the 1998-2000 border war, report says.
Ethiopian journalist Addisalem Hadigu met his daughters Asmera and Danait in Eritrea for the first time in 16 years. He was among many families kept apart by decades of war and conflict between the two neighbours.
“My suffering has ended – I have met my daughters and kissed them, and poured my tears,” Addisalem told local media.
The man, Abiy Ahmed has shown the world what one man can do for peace. I therefore urge all those in position of authorities to begin the process winning their opponent with love, mercy and forgiveness.
That will produce greater benefit to them and their people.
Abdulrazaq O Hamzat is an Executive Director at Foundation for Peace Professionals (FPP) and can be reached at [email protected]
First published on https://mrrightsng.blogspot.com/2018/07/one-man-can-bring-peace-by-abdulrazaq-o.html